Georgia basketball proving tough on the road

The Bulldogs have four road wins this season, as many as from last four seasons

ATHENS – A lot has gone wrong for Georgia basketball this season, but there is no denying the Bulldogs are a much more competitive team than they’ve been in recent years. That’s especially true on the road.

With a 76-64 win over Vanderbilt last Wednesday in Nashville, Georgia improved to 4-4 on the road this season. To put that into perspective, consider that it took 37 games over four seasons for the Bulldogs to accumulate four road wins coming into this year. That’s right, they were 4-33 in that span.

And even when Georgia has come up short away from home, it hasn’t been without a good fight. Florida needed overtime to get by the Bulldogs 102-98 in Gainesville on Jan. 27. Arkansas had to hang on to win 78-75. Even Kentucky couldn’t blow them out at Rupp Arena, winning 105-96 on Jan. 20.

So far, only Mississippi State has managed to beat Georgia by double figures away from Stegeman Coliseum, pullig away late to win 75-62 on Feb. 7 in Starkville. Otherwise, the Bulldogs have been in it to the end.

Georgia (15-12, 5-9 SEC) is hopeful that trend will continue Tuesday night when it travels to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take on the LSU Tigers (7 p.m., SEC Network).

“We don’t have as many wins as we like, but we’re a more competitive better basketball team obviously,” Georgia second-year coach Mike White said. “We’re better than we were early and better than we were last year. We are building and we’re better, but we want results though. We’ve got to get better.”

The teams have already met once this season. The Bulldogs blew a double-figure lead in the second half and actually fell behind in the final seconds. But Russel Tchewa’s three-point play with 2.3 seconds remaining lifted Georgia to a 68-66 win on Jan. 24 at Stegeman Coliseum.

But the Tigers (14-13, 6-8) have been playing much better of late. In the last three games, they knocked off then 17th-ranked Kentucky 75-74 at the Pete Maravich Center and followed that up with a 64-63 win over No. 11 South Carolina in Columbia on Feb. 17.

Both teams are coming off blowout losses at home this past Saturday, Georgia 97-76 to No. 14 Auburn and LSU 87-67 to Mississippi State.

There is a lot on the line Tuesday as far as postseason pursuits. Currently, the Bulldogs are tied with Arkansas for 11th place in the SEC. That places them among the league’s bottom four teams, which will mean a Wednesday night play-in game at the SEC Tournament March 13 in Nashville. Meanwhile, the Tigers are just one game better. They are in a three-way tie with Ole Miss and Texas A&M at 6-8 in conference play.

After Tuesday, the Bulldogs have the Aggies and Ole Miss at home before wrapping up the regular season March 9 at Auburn. LSU’s remaining games are on the road at Vandy and Arkansas and at home against Missouri, the SEC’s only winless team in conference play.

Don’t bother bringing up postseason scenarios to the Bulldogs.

“I’m just not focused on the postseason. I’m focused on LSU,” White said.

Said Georgia guard Silas Demary Jr., the only freshman in the league to start every game this season: “LSU is a good team. They just got two big-time wins. … They have some momentum. We just want to go in there with some confidence.”

The key for the Bulldogs is playing good defense. With last Wednesday’s road win over Vanderbilt, Georgia improved to 25-1 over the last two seasons when they hold opponents to 70 or fewer points. One of those victories came against LSU. At 76.8 points per game, the Bulldogs actually are scoring at a higher clip against SEC competition than they were in non-conference play (75.4).